A one-way ticket to freedom.
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“The Bound Man awakens one morning to find himself bound from head to toe. He accepts his fate. He never questions the fact that he is bound while others are free. His limitations have been caused by some cosmic force he does not even try to understand. He is bound; that is a fact of his existence, and he must confront the new situation with cunning and skill.
He adapts. He makes himself a free man by working within the confines of the restrictions. He gains his maximum freedom whenever he finds himself in harmony with the ropes, which, rather than limiting him, afford him a kind of freedom he’s never before enjoyed.”
— Ilse Aichinger, The Bound Man
All my life has been spent desperately trying to get someplace else. Away from the angst, the secrets, the interpretations, and the moment in front of me — essentially, away from myself. Being “present” was as conceptual as a principle in a self-help book, making no difference whatsoever beyond a marginally better couple of days. I knew there had to be more to life, but I was trapped.
I cursed my circumstances, resisting every step of the way. I wanted a straighter path (literally) and possessed no interest in confronting my humanity for what it was. Against the noise of a perceived superhighway in the background, I resented — and was scared shitless — having to take a road less traveled.
The more I put up a fight, the more constrained I became. It’s like I walked around every day with pre-programmed limits in what I was able to say, do, think or feel — and all well below baseline.
My inevitable breaking point arrived when operating as such a suppressed version of myself left me not only unhappy with the life I had thrown together, but also without a single meaningful relationship remaining — a bit of a red flag along the ol’ “good life” trail.
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This couldn’t continue, but to halt it involved escaping my own wrath. I was a deep sea diver who ditched his scuba gear for a greater chance at escaping a Great White. The solution was far from a gratitude journal, counting my blessings, or self-love/care/whichever term currently leads in popularity. No, thinking of myself was certain to push me even further down the rabbit hole to an inescapable abyss.
I knew this much: two traits clung to my coattails with a kung fu grip — envy and fear (two states very much having to do with oneself). The envy coming from wishing I had a different path, different circumstances, different things, and fear coming from having to choose my own.
Envy and fear are unremarkable on their own volition — most everyone deals with each — but nasty in combination. You want what you don’t have, but are too scared to go after it. You don’t value what you do have, but are so afraid of being perceived as unappreciative, you simply fake it instead of actually dealing with what’s in the way of you feeling thankful. You wish you were someone different, but paralyze when it comes time to risk who you are to everyone else.
A vicious circle, they call it? This was full-blown tornado.
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Yes, what you resist, persists. You can scratch and claw all you want, but the force will eventually bring you to your knees — at which point you’ll come face to face with the magnitude of what you got yourself into. Whether it was my fearful arrogance or envious self-pity, it was always about me, and I wasn’t who I said I was.
Behind the falsehood, to me, the envy kept hope alive for a brighter future. I felt if I fully accepted my life, others would stop contributing their efforts to make it better. It also kept me distracted from the bigger confrontations of life I had no interest in taking on: uncertainty and a finite amount of time.
Being envious and fearful is a cop-out, something that lets me off the hook from stepping into the light and seeing what I’m truly capable of. By giving in to fear, I never have to be at the source of my life. I never have to be the cause. I never have to be responsible.
There’s no power in any of that — being at the effect of what life throws at you. All that envy and all that fear leaves zero room for actual living. Zero room for expression, for joy, for contribution, for others. The toughest puzzles to put together are the most important ones to grab by the horns. I’ve deferred for long enough, resulting in extraordinary pain that both myself and others have incurred. Update: it’s not fucking worth it.
Your body is a body. Your feelings are feelings. Your thoughts are thoughts. You, on the other hand, come in the form of a spirit, meant to roam and be a part of the world. The more “you” is out there, with other sources of life, the more “you” fill up with emotions so powerful, you won’t have a capacity for envy. Emotions that make you uneasy not because of their strength, but because they communicate you’re sensing the brink of what’s possible to experience — where, in that moment, you appreciate just how fragile this beautiful, privileged life is.
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So when did the resolve occur? To put it simply, I became one with the ropes, testing their elasticity over time until I felt comfortable enough to bounce off them. I was dealt a hand, and though it may not be a perfect one, it’s mine. I’ll never know or fully comprehend everything there is to know about my life, so I might as well create an empowering context. I don’t know if everything happens for a reason, but it seems that people live healthier lives when they believe it does.
Despite wrestling with this for nearly a decade, it’s still hard for me to say I’m attracted to both men and women, and that my leading energy is actually somewhat feminine. But when I do, when I cease fabrication and opt for what’s there, the power returns to my corner.
Ridding myself of envy and fear also frees me up — I’m no longer consumed with my own inner conflict and can be someone people can see their reflection in. I can listen intently and watch what they say return to them in new ways, giving them a greater sense of who they are — which, in actuality, is arguably the greatest gift I could ever give someone.
When I’m not consumed with fear, I have an overwhelming love for people. I see that we’re all the same. I create who they are for me. I see them for their very best.
Which then returns to the source: I am my best when I see people — including myself — as their best. Any worry about their reaction is seeing them as less than. Any concern over where someone is in comparison to me is seeing myself as less than.
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Occluding the ego, the primal identity, the survival mechanism, allows my true essence to make a difference. It allows me to give back to mankind for all the time I’ve spent worrying about being enough, when I was perfectly fine all along.
I’m just me — a soul with a love for people, a love for life, and a love for who I am and where I came from.
That love — that deep, profound, meaningful love — is enough to wash away my envy and fear.
Free at last, free at last.
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