I was just sitting there, minding my own business, when suddenly Graham’s phone rings.
I can hear clearly in his voice that he hasn’t recognized the phone number : “Helleeeeu?” (imagine a British accent) and hear his voice changing from curious to very very warm. “Oh, hi mate!!!”
Pretending to be oblivious to my environment but actually listening like I am MI5 on mission, I realize it’s a restaurant calling us because, YES MATE, if everything goes according to plan we’ll have a table at his favorite restaurant and we can go and sit and eat like normal adults.
I feel joy. I think?
The truth is, I don’t know.
What I truly feel is like a bird who suddenly is feeling very uncomfortable flying away from its cage. Dreaming of freedom but feeling like I wouldn’t really know what to do with it.
It reminds me of each time I reached out for something new, how wobbly, how messy, how small I felt. Whether I had chosen it or not, jumping into the new, into the unknown, how frail I felt.
How many times I said, yes, sure I’ll do it, but how about a little later?
Yes, just waiting for this to happen so that can happen.
How much, when the moment arrived I felt like saying : “how about one more day before I take the jump?”
Of each time I made myself comfortable in a bad situation and learned to live with it. Learned to make it my home even if the ceiling was so low I had to walk with my head crooked and couldn’t stretch my arms.
University, a job, a relationship, my body.
When do we know we’ve gone from uncomfortable to intolerable?
Yes we are privileged. But also, yes we are allowed to feel pain.
How intolerable does a situation have to become for us to say : “enough!!?”
I love gratitude, but I doubt gratitude.
Gratitude kept me down.
I kept me telling myself all things considered I was good and shouldn’t complain.
I told myself I was grateful until the day I realized I was in a deep, dark depression.
But if you feel like shit, day after day - do something.
I have a silk skirt here, and some beautiful cashmere sweaters my friend Stephanie sent me.
I will probably wear this to dinner with my man. With a nice pair of shoes. I want to. He’s seen me in sweatpants for two months now. He needs to remember that other, distant version of me.
I need to remember that other, distant version of me.
But I am not excited to put them on. The true thing that I feel is anxiety. I feel like my body changed and I don’t want to see it. I am making jokes about it, but it cuts deep - because that’s how women are. Maybe I am right, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I’ll put my clothes on and feel beautiful and ready.
Just give me another week? So I can get used to the idea?
I wanted to book my flight back to LA, but Air New Zealand wouldn’t pick up. It took a few days. Three days. Just what I needed. Three days to get used to the idea. To make friends with my fear of leaving what I have here, of going back.
I fear putting on a skirt. I fear going to a restaurant. I want it. It’s allowed. But I fear it. The moment I’ll walk in I’ll probably feel perfectly at home, like I used to. Like getting back on a bike. Maybe, maybe not.
The tiny things that get taken away from us, the tiny thing we take away from ourselves.
They chip away slowly at our ease, at our freedom.
I was with a man once. I was so unhappy.
But I stayed. I kept staying. I kept giving my peace away, as if my peace was something cheap you can just throw in the air. The fear was too strong. It came in the shape of doubt. I wasn’t sure I was unhappy. What’s happiness? What if this is what love is? How would I know? I had chosen this relationship after all. Nobody forced me. What if I am just asking for too much? What if there is nothing better for me out there? Why do we always want better? Could I stay a little longer?
I stayed. I stayed until the fear of the death my soul became stronger than the fear of leaving.
Graham hangs up the phone, and, because he probably believes I haven’t listened to the whole conversation and stopped myself from shouting “No, not 8pm, it’s way too late, 7pm!!!”, he says :
“Baby, I am beyond excited, I am finally going to be able to take you to the restaurant I so love!”
No fear. No doubt. Able to pick up and go.
Some people are like this. It looks so easy for them.
So why such a storm in my mind?
Why so hard to break habits, why so hard to break the uncomfortable comfort?
I used to cry on my way to fashion shows.
Absolutely no one was forcing me to go but myself.
So I booked my ticket to Los Angeles. I am going back.
I will be happy. It’s time. I will miss it here. I will carry my fear with me.
The airport. The plane. The home, alone. The supermarket. The masks. Another two weeks of solo quarantine which is, well, actually reassuring it’s so familiar. It’s all I’ve done for weeks, being in quarantine. Plus I’ll have my dog to cuddle. It will be weird, but it will be comforting. The world as we know it that has imploded in front of our eyes. Now we are slowly getting back to life, seeing the mess in front of us. How we’ll handle it, how I’ll handle it.
I will have a mask. I won’t touch my face. I will wash my hands.
I will have fear but I’ll do it.
I will feel insecure. I will feel like a fish out of water. I will feel judged for what I did.
But I am doing it.
My friend bought a mask yesterday.
She said, I don’t really need it : I don’t go out. I bought it mostly to protect myself from people getting upset if you don’t wear a mask - even if you’re in your own car. The same friend told me a woman laughed at her a month ago because she was opening a door protecting her hand with her sleeve.
I’ll feel judged for traveling.
I’ll feel judged for being too cautious.
I’ll feel judged for being not cautious enough.
We all know why we do what we do.
We shouldn’t have to explain.
We all have more stories of feeling judged, lately.
Other people’s judgment, they grow out of their fear, they grow our fear.
We can try to be a good person. Be a good citizen. Be a model of perfect behavior. Be above any judgment. But at the end of the day, anything we do happens through the prism of our own values. And there will always be someone to judge us.
So, let go.
Follow you own values.
Let go of the rest, or you will always stay in your cage.
The door is open.
What will my parents say if I leave school.
What will my friends say say if I leave him.
What will my community think if I leave my job.
Let me think about it and stay where I am, if just one more day.
Freedom is scary. Freedom takes courage.
Rules are so much easier to follow.
And as the world slowly, clumsily reopens, we are going to have to face so many of our discomforts. The small ones and the big ones. The very personal ones and the big, complicated, ethical and ideological ones. The relationships, the money. The others. Their points of views, their fears, their judgement. Their loveliness and their helping hand, too.
Often, we won’t know what to do. We will feel lost.
We’re going to have to deal with fear everyday.
Make it your friend. She is a sign that something inside you is adapting, changing, evolving.
Don’t stay too attached to what was.
And be kind to yourself. And patient. Control what you can, let go of what you can’t.
Like the bird, not so sure where to go yet, reborn to a new society.
You’ll be ready sooner thank you think.
I’ll let you know how my evening at the restaurant goes.