Today, I calculated that, based on the average lifespan of a female born and living in the USA, I have fewer than 5000 days left on the planet. And that’s barring any possible illnesses that could cut those days down, considerably.
It wasn’t for any morbid reason I calculated this. I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of not living to the fullest while I’m still breathing.
Too many people don’t, in my opinion. They’re afraid, of what I don’t know. I’ve never known. At age 14, when I first absorbed what the word “mortal” means, I promised myself that if I had no choice but to die one day, then I wouldn’t be one of those who are afraid of anything new or different, who are afraid of strangers, afraid that something they have is going to be taken away, afraid to change jobs, locations, partners, spouses. I promised myself that, even if it was hard to cope with what I discovered, I wouldn’t be afraid to entertain a new idea, or the possibility that something I’ve been taught to believe might be wrong.
Too often we make choices based on what other people we know think is “normal” and acceptable. We even decorate our living spaces with that in mind. In the everything of our lives we too often choose ‘beige.’ Not because we love it, but because it’s safe.
I understand this is a survival instinct. But it’s also a trap that has some going to a job they hate, socializing with friends whom they’ve long outgrown, living in a place they don’t want to live, with a partner with whom they can’t connect. Day in, day out, their days fall away, until they get to the final day, and think, “That’s it? It’s all over?”
My boldness and impulsiveness has landed me in some sticky situations, for sure. My way of living has annoyed or genuinely confused some in my circle, that’s also for sure. But…
My next sentence should be, “I did it my way” right? Except, I haven’t, because there is one fear I’ve always held, one fear that’s ruled too many of my decisions: the fear that someone I love would not love me back.
It could be anyone–a lover, a friend, a family member. I was conditioned–fed from birth, actually–that those I love would not return my love, unless I did what they wanted me to do.
That conditioning has clung. It’s loosened quite a bit, thanks to a husband who seems to accept me as is, flaws a many. Even so, there are times when I wonder if he’ll one day say, “Here are all the things you do and have done that I don’t like. And I don’t love you anymore.”
I’ve shared that anxiety with him, and he laughs. He can’t fathom it, because he didn’t grow up with a mother like mine, who’s memory in my mind is drenched with her disapproval and dislike of me. It would be so easy for him to use this knowledge of my Achille’s heel against me. But he wouldn’t. Apart from that, I’m strong enough now that I’d eventually notice, and, as I’ve done in the past, force myself away from the emotional blackmail, as much as it would tear at me.
But emotional blackmail still slips by me sometimes, still works on me. I still want to be loved by those I love, and it’s painful to recognize that some whom I love might have agendas of their own. That idea that I’ve accepted less than I should, that I’ve accepted terms of love that are not loving, has made me feel vulnerable and lesser. I’ve only just realized, after approximately 23,725 days on Earth, that with a few vital people, I would still rather be welcomed conditionally than ostracized and “othered” by them.
So, today, on day whatever of the possible 5000 thereabouts I have left, I’m going to try something different: Honesty. With myself and with those I love. I wonder if it will make the rest of my days fuller and more authentic, or lonelier?
I guess I’ll find out.
Fran Caldwell says
The novel (my fourth) I’m about to publish has a protagonist just like you. The difference is: she rejects close relationships (even her own children) carefully avoiding what she imagines is the inevitable outcome. People leave, after all.. My story naturally empowers her along the way. Not cured, but accepting of her frailties.
As the writer, it stands to reason I have personal experience with this. I am happy, outgoing, very warm and friendly, but always with that deep-seated suspicion that things can change.
I do have cats. They stay for their allotted time. Wish it could be longer.
Patricia V Davis says
How interesting! What is the title of your novel, Fran?