Of Course You Have Doubts — Certainty Is An Illusion.
It’s been a while since I found the inspiration to write something. Even when I know that artists shouldn’t rely on that fleeting feeling, I still hide behind the fact that I’m not a full-time writer to do just that.
But today, pushed by the comment of a new acquaintance (“Oh you write on Medium? That’s cool!”) and the bliss of a sunny day working from home, my favorite lover of the moment asleep in the room next door, and my dog relentlessly trying to show her affection by licking my knee, today I’ve felt inspired to write.
But about what?
After months of reading first-person long-forms, sometimes random but always quality newsletters (My Sweet Dumb Brain, Maybe Baby, and Margeaux Fellman’s just to name a few), I’ve been wanting to experiment with the genre as well. After all, it’s not so different from the essays I started writing a couple of years ago right here on Medium.
The day is July 4th, a date that means a lot to half of my friends and to the country on the other side of the border a few hundred miles south of where I live. To me, it’s just like any other Monday — except it’s not.
I first wrote: “except I’m the happiest I’ve ever been”. I don’t know if that was true back then, but it felt off when I sat at my computer a few hours later, and even more so the following month. I might just have mistaken happiness for joy. Clearly, I felt joy, for all the reasons hereby mentioned.
But happiness? I don’t know about that.
The distinction was given to me in a podcast recently (might have been Ten Percent Happier by Dan Harris); happiness, if I remember it correctly, was defined as a state of bliss that can never be reached but only longed for and aimed at.
Fair enough. So where does that leave us? Longing.
“One of the most eloquent way the soul speaks to us is through longings”
That’s definitely one of the things I’ve been feeling lately. Longing, but also restless, doubtful, excited, tired, confused, anxious, fulfilled, and at peace. I’ve felt all of those sometimes in the span of a single day, and that’s A LOT.
But see, that’s exactly what I committed to: to feel all the feels. Because I don’t think there’s another way. Trust me, I’ve tried.
As a hypersensitive empath growing up in a dysfunctional family overly concerned with performance and plagued by taboo, I learned to silence my needs and deflect any over-the-top sign of hurt. It was just the way things were: we, like many families, wouldn’t talk openly about what we were feeling, and would just let things explode when they very legitimately became too much (which was more often than not).
I went through life with a major feeling of inadequacy, always afraid to be rejected or abandoned, certain that I had to hide my true colors to get a fraction of the affection I so painfully craved.
I’m well aware that a lot of what I’m describing here has more to do with the narrative I built around it than the real facts (I don’t remember correctly most of my childhood anyway— a classic trauma response).
But that’s also ok, because what I’m left to deal with today is just that: my story.
I’ve gone (and still am) on a quest for the truth, for answers to questions that might give me some hope that one day, once I know and understand everything, I’ll be ok. I’ll be better. I’ll be fixed.
I have so much compassion for that woman, and for the kid inside her. As I shed the layers of self-hatred and internalized judgment, I’m able to see more clearly the patterns at play in my present.
The anxiously attached lover who took on hyper-independent traits to protect herself, left with an ambivalence that made secure, long-lasting relationships almost impossible as a young adult.
The hypersexualized teenager who sought intimacy to forget that men had harmed her and couldn’t be trusted but were her reason to be, that their validation and attention were the proof that she had value.
The bullied little girl who was teased for being different, punished for wearing her heart on her sleeve, who found solace in community as she embraced herself wholly and built a new family of friends around the world.
The depressed daughter still grieving an impossible reunion with her deceased mother and filled with hope about her new relationship with her absent father.
“Where the blows hit you is where the growing edges are”
All this is within me, but it isn’t me. They’re things that happen to me, for me, and that I’ve had no choice but to integrate.
All the work I’ve done in therapy since I was 15, the books I’ve read, and the podcasts I’ve listened to, all the conversations in my head, and the hours spent crying, ruminating, wishing for things to be different, for me to be different.
Slowly, I’m letting go of that belief. It’s a process. I’m nowhere close to done, and I still want to give up every other day. One morning I think that I finally have my shit together and can see things clearly, and the next I’m back to the nightmares and the never-ending questioning and uncertainty.
And of course I have doubts: certainty is an illusion. Nothing is permanent, there’s no one single truth, the only constants are death and taxes. Call me cynical, but I’ve actually found a lot of relief in the Buddhist concept of non-attachment. No attachment to things, to outcomes, to people even.
Which doesn’t mean that life isn’t worth living, on the contrary.
Once I’ve accepted that, I’m able to connect with what I think is the highest expression of our souls (or human character or whatever): love. It’s a classic both/and, where life is both blatantly pointless and immensely meaningful at the same time.
And there’s some weird sense of peace in reconciling that. Maybe that’s my path to happiness, to let go of my attachment to joy that’s mistaken for something else.
Maybe twenty years from now, I’ll realize that all along I had the answers I was looking for. That all along, I was blooming.