Sunday, October 26, 2014

Don't Let the Monkeys Run Your Life

I'm scared.

Of a lot of things.

When people ask me what I'm most afraid of, I always answer the same: monkeys and outhouses.

And on a surface level, that's very true. I am actually very afraid of monkeys, and I am very, very afraid of outhouses. I would argue that I have good reason for both of these insane fears. For one, I was attacked by a monkey at a California zoo as a baby. A small monkey bolted over to my stroller, where it proceeded to head butt me and steal my bottle right from my hands.

Yes, that really did happen.

Then when I was 19, I had an incident in an outhouse that involved a pitch dark night and a stranger's poop. At the end of the story, I rode home in my friend's truck, naked and wrapped in a blanket, after shedding all of my clothes on the side of the highway. Needless to say, I now only use outhouses in the broad daylight, I don't shut the door and therefore make someone stand guard outside, and if there is any (and I do mean any) other place to pee, I use it.

Yes, that also really did happen.

People who don't know me well, get that answer. I'm afraid of monkeys and outhouses. And they move forward, not knowing me, thinking that I have two ridiculous stories ending in entertaining fears, and I move forward, letting them think that that's it.

But then there are the people who take the time to know me for real, who know what I am really scared of. The people who have sat with me and a bottle of wine for hours, the people who have invested in me, the people who have been by my side when I've needed them; these are the people who know that my fears go beyond monkeys and outhouses. These are the people who know I am afraid of losing control and of letting someone all the way in.

Those are my real fears, the ones that really give me a run for my money.

I'm afraid of losing control. I talk to my therapist about this one twice a month, on average, more often when I am dealing with a lot of change at once. I have come far enough to recognize it, to feel what triggers it, and to be aware of it...and also to sometimes have a laugh at myself for it. As an example, I recently decided to get a roommate, and I rented half my apartment to a girl who was moving out of her parents' house for the first time. This was ideal for me, because I have furniture and appliances and dishes and decor...and she doesn't. So essentially, our apartment is furnished with my stuff, with the obvious exception of her bedroom. Recently, she acquired a chair. A chair that sits at the dining room table. So, as anyone else would, she put her new chair out in the dining room, and now we have three chairs at the table - two that I bought with the table, that match...and one random one that doesn't. And this chair has become my nemesis. When I am doing dishes, I stare at it. It bothers me. Not because it's ugly, but because it bothers me that someone else's stuff is in my dining room. Now, mind you this person pays rent, is a legal lease holder on our shared apartment, and has every right to buy a chair and put it wherever she wants. And I'm not mad about it by any means; it just bugs me when I think about it. Because really, I just don't want anyone else to have any control over my life, and somehow this damn chair seems to trigger a time in my life where someone else was controlling my entire existence.

And yes, I realize this makes me sound like a total psycho.

I am also afraid of letting someone into my soul far enough that they could hurt me. People do that, the whole hurting other people thing. Sometimes they even do it intentionally. I've had people hurt me on accident, and I've had people hurt me intentionally. And it's definitely the intentional hurting that stays with you; the fact that someone would maliciously seek out a way to cause you pain. But they're out there, those people. So I feel the need to be cautious.

Unfortunately, that need to protect myself, to protect my heart, often gets in my way. And it gets in my way in ways that I don't see coming at first, sometimes not until it's too late. Sometimes I don't even realize I have my emotional arm up, that I am still guarding some part of me, that's I'm keeping my distance. And it's always the worst when someone you care about has to be the one to point it out, like there's someone out there who is working hard enough to get all the way in, that they're the one who notices when you're making it impossible.

Regardless of how scary it is, there comes a point in your life that you have to let your past shit go. When you have to look your fears in the face and say fuck it. When you have to let your roommate buy a chair you don't like and stop looking at it with dismay on your way out the door in the morning. When you have to look at that person who is working their hardest to know you, and make the choice to let them in. Fear will always be there, trying to hold you back, trying to keep you down. Are you going to let it win? Are you going to let your fear win? Or are you going to make a conscious decision to do what you know feels good, despite any fear of failure or heartache or anything else?

It's okay to be afraid of ridiculous things, like monkeys or spiders or public bathrooms. It's even okay to be afraid of real things, like falling in love with someone you could love forever or moving into an apartment with that person, or even walking away from the things you know and trying something new. Fear is a normal thing, a healthy thing. But it's not okay to be controlled by your fear, and it's not okay to let your fears control your life.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I still have no intention of hanging out with any monkeys...

I'm just never gonna be ready for that.