Free At Last?

I’m back from watching “The Walk” in 3D at the movies. It reminded me of my 20-something-year-old self, which I’m going to talk about in a minute.

But first this: After the movie, I took a stroll along the lake promenade in glorious silver moon light (we have a full moon right now where I live) and watched the ducks, most of them sitting asleep in the water near the lakeside boardwalk. I don’t mention this to highlight the poetic ambience that – admittedly – hung in the air, with some light mist hovering above the water in the distance and getting magnificiently illuminated by the moon. As this is a blog about my struggle with the outcomes of complex PTSD, I largely mention it because I noticed those ducks sitting in shallow water when they fall asleep. In order to do so, they simply tuck their heads under one wing and drift motionlessly in the water. But shallow water? I’m not an ornithologist, but I think I remember a documentary about ducks and how they sometimes get snatched from the surface and eaten by e.g. large catfish or other predatory fish that are big and strong enough to swallow a duck. (It happens, I’m not making this up). So I suspect their evolutionary path led them toward rather sleeping in shallow water as the risk of getting swallowed there is less pronounced than out in the open water.

This behaviour somehow reminded me of me and my overly cautious, if not paranoid behaviour in recent years and further of the factual experience where being in close physical proximity with people – any people, mind you, even family and my beloved (ex-) wife or any significant other prior to her – has always been an uncomfortable experience for me, sometimes bordering on torture. Yes. True. I have never fully enjoyed the physical proximity of other people, rather on the contrary, and it never had the soothing, reassuring, comforting quality that most other people probably take for granted. At best, to this day I’m able to tolerate physical proximity. (On a side not: Intimacy? In limited ways and amount. Which probably explains why my relationships, including my marriage, didn’t stand the test of time). So the ducks sit in shallow water to minimize the risk of being eaten while asleep. Like I said: Sounds like me in many ways. And then not. Which brings us back to that movie.

Aside from it being excellent entertainment – a warning to all people afraid of heights, though… – and being a very exciting and suspenseful, well done tale of the authentic figure Philippe Petit, I find it to be an epic tale of overcoming and letting go. Overcoming whatever fear we may have born in us and allowed to persist, letting go of false belief systems – usually ingrained in us by other people, who benefit from our being “small” and putting ourselves down and keeping ourselves in check from said false beliefs -, letting go of – fear, actually. For large sequences of the movie I was in tears over … being reminded that I had done it all myself in younger years. I had dared that which I deemed impossible given my limitations brought on by the condition, although I didn’t have names and labels and diagnoses for it back then (But I still noticed my being very very different from the rest and how I could never be emotionally fully present in just about any situation as old, unprocessed emotions would always get in the way – one way or another.) But: I still found a way to rise above it all. At some point – this was after a failed, totally unproductive inpatient treatment for months on end at age 19 – I declared myself healthy, worthy, on par and at eyes’ level with everyone else on the planet! Yep! Sounds almost silly, it’s so mundane. But that’s what I basically did: Told myself that from here on I was putting the past behind me and would solely focus on my potential and my dreams and aspirations and do anything necessary to make them a reality. In other words: I divorced myself from negative, false belief systems and liberated the true being in me!

Seeing this movie today and its main character and in particular seeing how he defied the rules and regulations in place, the naysayers, the sceptics, how he escaped the police time and time again and won first the heart of this lovely young lady – this may be one of the fictitious segments of the film – and then other people to support him in his “crazy” adventure, it all reminded me of this: This is where life begins, by being daring, literally living on the edge, casting aside all worries and fears and whatnot. Life – begins at the intersection of sanity and insanity. And ironically – when we dare the impossible, we’re – sometimes – being rewarded with an out-of-this-world peace. It’s probably God’s way of saying “Thank you. Thank you for helping me experience myself, thyself, ourselves.” (For the record: I don’t refer to God in the usually denoted meaning as defined by some religion or something, more like an all-pervading intelligence that seems inherent in all of creation, in a largely atheistic or more precisely pantheistic way, the divine per se, if you will)

I once had the heart and courage of a “hero” myself – or so it feels to me today – for I was willing to take on the impossible: Wrestle down my fears, ingrained from and left behind by horrific events that really happened, take on the demons and the sceptics and haters and boldly follow my dreams, my heart, my aspirations! (back then I didn’t think of it as anywhere near “heroic”, just … a choice I must make to improve my quality of life. And I definitely wanted my life to be better than remaining trapped in the victim mentality)

I must find a way to muster this courage again, because it is on the other side of fear where life happens! For the past years, I was trapped in a thinking where I thought I’d get cut some slack from society at large. I thought I’d be treated with more consideration or compassion or…. whatever. After eight years of disability, unemployment, living on terms of scarcity, being haunted and overwhelmed by fears both old and new, I must say: It sucks! This is no life at all! It is survival at best and “living” like this worsens the condition. Being out there and taking a beating here and there, but being out there and in the midst of the ongoing madness that our world is – still was way better than this ghost-like existence, this invisibility, insignificance, stagnation … in other words: Dying an incredibly slow and painful death – on the inside first, on the outside sure to follow at some point and one day.

I am injured, hurt, damaged – and I’ve been defeated for a long time. I got nothing to lose. Now I am free again to do and risk anything. I got nothing to lose, only to gain. I am – free.

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