I Opened My Heart, it's All Over This Page.
The Unknown. Just hearing that word evokes the sound of ominous music, accompanied by a nervous knot in my stomach. For me, the unknown has always been somewhat of a breeding ground for anxiety. Do you ever feel that too? It seems so innately human to feel this way. Even google searching for “unknown” pulls up sinister, dark, creepy photos…. (Which is how I found the photo for this article!) Maybe we’re hardwired to feel this unease when it comes to the future and events that we can’t yet grasp. But, sometimes I feel like we spend our lives trying to distract ourselves from the fact that we can never know. So, we get really busy, try to fill our schedules with all these stupid activities that we pretend are important. It makes us feel like we are in control. But, that illusion only moves us further from the truth: what if we’re not in control at all? And what if that is, in a way, the key to understanding life?
The mystic and poet Rumi states: “My head is bursting with joy of the unknown. My heart is expanding a thousand-fold.”
My immediate response: HOW CAN I FEEL JOY FOR THE UNKOWN WHEN I AM FREAKING OUT BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW AND I WANT TO KNOW!!!?????
Rumi’s quote is incredibly beautiful, but it’s so far from where I am: from where most of us are most of the time. How can I even begin to relate to it?…..What it might take to get to a place where the unknown doesn’t scare the bejesus out of me?….I swear, I picture the unknown being this evil shrouded figure that follows and taunts me wherever I go. I never see it, but I can just TELL it’s there, lurking creepily in the background, wanting to JUMP OUT and scare me when I least expect it.
The other night, I was thinking how hard it is to face the mystery of what lies ahead. I was wishing from the depths of my soul that I could just get a glimpse of how my life would turn out… And, a familiar barrage of anxiety came over me: Where should I go with my life? Am I going in the right direction? Where do I think I will be in five years? Or, in one year? Am I make the right choices? Or am I completely fucking everything up? I got in the shower and just cried, the shower seeming to cry with me. I didn’t know how I would get through this moment, let alone, my whole life just not knowing, being scared, wanting to feel in control, feeling so small. The shower helped a little. But, when I woke up the next day, I still felt this undercurrent of tension and anxiety.
I went about my day normally. But, the tension continued to build. I felt like my head might explode. Then I stopped. I felt so anxious I could barely sit still. But, I stopped everything I was doing, everything I “had” to do. I just stopped. I decided to work on some art. I sat down, feeling like I was holding myself in my own arms. I asked myself what really was wrong? What, really, am I feeling? Why am I having such an intense need to know? Why is it hitting me in particular right now?
As I sketched with my pastels, each stroke carrying my intense, anxiety-ridden energy behind it, I started crying again. I realized that what I was feeling, at the heart of my being, was FEAR about my week, about some dance classes I am going to be teaching. In that moment, I felt like I couldn’t do it, that I would fail, that I was weak, that I was going to crumble completely and screw it all up. This fragility, this extreme vulnerability was at the heart of my needing to know: I needed to know how it would all turn out because I was afraid that I was incapable of succeeding. I needed to know because I didn’t trust that I would catch myself if I fell. I needed to know because not knowing meant that the possibility of failure was looming overhead, ready to take me as its next victim.
Then something crazy happened: I let go. I surrendered, just a tiny bit. Just for a moment. Sometimes a little bit goes a long way. What did I surrender to? Simply to the fact that I felt scared. I let that intense fear fill up my whole being, let it dance all around me and inside of me. I took a breath, felt like I might die, and was worried that I might feel like this forever. Then, something even crazier happened: the fear started to diminish. I was ok. I had felt my fear, completely, without turning away, and I survived. I thought to myself, If I can do this, then certainly I can teach a dance class! That’s the thing about anxiety, fear, and doubt: sometimes facing IT is harder than facing the event that’s bringing up those feelings.
Even a few days later, I still feel this sense of calm flooding into me. This is somewhat new to me. I feel more accepting of the fact that the future is unknown. And, now that I am more aware of what I was feeling, I can nurture and help myself, remind myself that I’m here for me. I can encourage myself or reach out to others for support. This is wildly empowering.
I think sometimes, when we are particularly grasping for “knowing” we need to turn the mirror towards ourselves and see what is going on inside. Maybe we feel desperate for answers because there is something going on within us that needs attending to. How much do we really know about what we are feeling? Do we know why we feel anxious, sad, or fearful? Or, sometimes: are we even aware of what we feel at all?
And, this is information we can obtain! If we start with going inside, we can get answers. Maybe not the answers about the future. But, answers about right now, this moment. Answers about how I am, how I REALLY am. This is sometimes the only information we need. We run away from ourselves so often. What would it be like to keep closer contact with ourselves?
Simple awareness can bring us great relief, peace of mind, and freedom.
Sit down with yourself and ask yourself: “How I am now?…How am I REALLY?” Something can open just by asking the question.
Rumi says, “Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”
Perhaps by knowing ourselves, and discovering how we are feeling, we can learn more about this crazy thing we call “my life” or “your life.” Either way, I have found time and time again, that the answers I assume can be only found by frantic external searching can be sought much more effectively by going within.
So, hold the door for yourself, let yourself in.
There’s always more to see. 🙂