I am a coward.
I have built myself a framework – a safety net, if you will – of rules and regulations and restrictions and conventions. My job, my home, my bank account, my children’s schools, my doctors’ appointments, my online blogs…these are all a part of the framework, the safety net. They all make me feel safe, and secure, and neatly slotted into my nice, safe, normal niche in life.
I know this because:
Yesterday, at lunch, I was sitting in the car at the gas station, waiting for a friend to come back after paying for gas. I was watching the cars go by, as they entered and exited the interstate, and thinking – as I always do – about who might be in them and where they might be going. Something about the day – the weather, perhaps, which was gray and rainy and gloomy, and cold – or about my own mood, gave me the oddest sensation that these people were all free as birds, going who knew where, while I was securely tied to the earth. I did not envy them.
I couldn’t help wondering if the guy in the old red Pontiac was on a road trip, headed to an unknown destination. Was the woman in the little Toyota running from something? Had she just quit her job and emptied her bank account and taken off to points unknown?
Why would I have these thoughts? One might speculate that they indicate a repressed desire in me to do exactly that – just cut all ties and fly away. But I didn’t find them appealing…I found them frightening. The idea of being in the car, driving, but not to anywhere…not having a job I have to be at the next day, not having kids to be picked up from school, not having bills to be paid on a particular day or a home to be cared for or a paycheck to ensure…was terrifying to me.
So that led me to wonder why? Why would I not WANT that, that ultimate freedom of having no responsibilities, no one to answer to, no one to take care of? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? But it didn’t seem wonderful to me; it seemed terrifying and heartbreaking and awful.
The fact that I have a job (okay, jobs) ensures that I get a paycheck. That paycheck ensures that I have a place to live and can pay my bills. If I want that security – a roof over my head every night, and knowing where it will be, and food to eat and each day a safe environment – then I must follow very strict rules and routines. Get up, get the kids to school, go to work, come home, make sure the kids are picked up, fed, etc…ad nauseam. I should feel trapped by all that – but I don’t. I feel safe and comforted.
To me, the most frightening thing in the world is not knowing what to expect. I did not realize that about myself until just now. Everything that I fear – death, old age, divorce, an empty nest, losing a job, having a serious health condition, going on a new ride at the amusement park for heaven’s sake – all comes down to that. They are all situations in which I do not know what to expect, and that is bone-chillingly terrifying to me.
It seems blindingly obvious, now, that this is at the root of my compulsive planning and organizing and list-making; I am not just a naturally organized person who has a talent for creating order from chaos (though I do) – I am borderline obsessive-compulsive because I am terrified of disorder!
I knew that I had control issues. I thought that I had dealt with them to some extent, but I find that the fear of a loss of control – of not knowing where I am headed and having no way of steering – is worse now than it ever was. It just hides now, under and behind other things. That is sobering and saddening to me, because I don’t want to be timid. Timidity is not a positive trait, to my mind. I wish I knew how to conquer this particular fear…perhaps if my faith were stronger, and I could simply trust that someone is taking care of me, I could deal with it more rationally. But as it stands, I am petrified of the unknown, to the extent (evidently) that I perseverate about it at odd times and seemingly without provocation.
Historically, having unsolicited thoughts like this has meant that an issue I have been avoiding is rearing its ugly head, demanding to be recognized. I am afraid of that, as well – my fear is so great in this context that I am afraid to even think about it, but I can’t help it. It almost sounds like it may be time for therapy again…but I dread that too. It’s never an easy process, and to get to the dawn you have to first go through the night.
I am afraid of so many things, for someone who considers herself fairly assertive and bold. I don’t like that about myself.