Falling Happens, But Jumping Takes Courage
I have written in the past about how I truly enjoy spending time alone.
This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the company of others, or that I don’t have genuine interest in people. I thoroughly enjoy time with friends and acquaintances alike, and I’d say that other human beings interest me more than almost anything else.
These things, enjoying time with others as well as time alone, are not mutually exclusive. While I like people, I need a considerable amount of time to myself. I always have, and I always will. There is a sense of overload if I’m around too many people at once or for too long. I literally require the decompression that being alone brings.
I revel in being isolated in quiet, adore to be wrapped in nothing but my thoughts. There is a level of reflection and philosophy that I am incapable of reaching in any way other than alone in stillness. On the other hand, I delight in pounding my brain with loud music and smiling at a room that holds only me while I assault my surroundings with my interpretations of the lyrics and melodies. This is like medicine for my soul. I need it as much as I regularly need to feel sunshine on my skin.
So yes, I like to be alone. I like to have my thoughts to myself, to be able to control my environment, to be the master of my domain at any given moment. I am a hair away from saying that my sanity actually hinges on my having time alone regularly.
And so it feels odd to say that I’m horribly afraid of being alone.
I don’t think I’ve ever really admitted that. I’m afraid to truly stand on my own. Confessing that is difficult for me. I have always valued strength and independence, wanted those qualities for myself. Yet I feel as if I hold my head high on the outside, while in reality, I often tremble and cower inside myself.
Many years ago, fearing that he would never marry me, I suggested to my long-time boyfriend that we part ways. He had given me some ominous answers to some very pointed questions, and my heart was registering some unwelcome and heartbreaking truths.
I told him that I felt I had lost myself in him. It would have been unfair of me to blame him for that, and I most certainly didn’t, but I had allowed myself to be dependent on him for so much, practical as well as emotional, for so long. I’d poured myself into him. I always knew I shouldn’t but I felt powerless to stop doing it.
When I realized that he would likely one day need to flee the suffocation of my pressing need, that he would surely turn and walk from me eventually, I panicked. I felt the crushing fear of falling -- alone -- on that impending day. How could I protect myself? How could I learn to be stronger?
I had to force a situation that would make me let go and step away. Inside, I knew I had to take a leap, to make myself learn how to stand alone. Jumping, after all, always seems easier than falling.
It is not. Falling happens. Jumping takes courage.
He did not disagree with me that we should part ways. Even though it was my suggestion, I have always been pained by that.
And so, what happened then, after separating myself painfully from my best friend of seven years? Did I spend a good deal of time alone afterwards, learning to trust my ability to be an independent person? No. I lacked the courage to jump.
I am so ashamed of that.
I immediately started dating the man who would later become my husband. I leaned on him as hard as he would let me. He let me lean in all the way. My ex told me in a sad tone, after learning I was seeing someone else so soon, “You are dependent. You just go from one man to the next, always looking for someone to take care of you because you’re afraid.”
I was stung by his words, angered. I dismissed them as jealousy.
The kicker was that I secretly knew he was right.
I held my head high and moved on. I said to myself that I couldn’t walk from the love John was offering me, that I couldn’t allow myself to pass up a chance at happiness. I told myself I’d regret it mightily one day if I did.
Those things are true; I was not lying to myself.
But the other truth, the one I’ve never admitted outside my own head, is that I was also afraid to do what I had set out to do. I was frightened to stand completely alone in the world, daring it to knock me down.
“What if it really does?” I thought. I wasn’t confident enough in myself to believe I could get back up.
Was it a mistake that I did not take that time and learn the value of being strong in myself? In a way, yes, very much.
You see, it is not so much that I am truly weak, or unable to stand on my own, to be a strong person and take care of myself. Even through my fear there is a knowledge in my core that I am strong enough. Fear has a way of making you nearsighted, though. I am often unable to see my core. I believe the lies that my insecurity whispers so close to my trembling ears in moments of doubt.
I do not regret loving my husband. And how could I regret a union that brought me the joy that is my son? I do not. This is my life. I take my past and wrap it like a bow around the person I have become. I cannot change my past, but I can most certainly examine it, always reflecting on where I have been, learning, and watching where I am headed. I am the constant analyzer, if you will.
The mistake was not that I allowed myself to love and be loved. That is never a mistake.
The harm was in not allowing myself a chance to see the living proof of my own strength. If I had jumped, I’d know for sure that I can fly, and that would have banished my fear of falling infinitely.