Blue-tongued after a colored lollipop, hair flying, making pretend car noises, chasing a crazy five year old boy with a toy car in my hand around the dining room table. This was my day. Hearing his laughter echo across the kitchen as his feet hit the wood floor flying a toy plane was the greatest thing I had heard all day. His hair flopped messily against his head to the rhythm of his footsteps. Strands would escape and cover an eye as he turned to see where I was. The screams of laughter rose and fell in pitch as I let him get further away and caught up quickly around the corners. He panted as he ran faster and faster away from me.
“Chase me, chase me!” He screamed gleefully, glancing behind his shoulder to see how close I was. I paused, turned around and surprised him face to face around a corner. His screech of pure delight made me smile and laugh genuinely. My heart was beating fast and I suddenly had the desire to catch him. Only moments earlier, I had been drowning in depression. When he had asked me if I wanted to play, I had groaned internally but stood and asked what he wanted to do. He picked up his toy car and handed it in my direction. Reluctantly I took the toy and followed his directions to race around the table. My wrist ached with the marks of day zero, a phrase commonly used by those who have slipped back into a self-destructive state. My cuts had throbbed all day as my heart ached with shame but in this moment, laughing with a silly boy after we had had some dum-dum lollipops made the pain disappear. I watched his innocence with envy and was amazed at how untainted by the world he was. His youth was beautiful. There were no crazy guards up around him and he was capable of feeling everything without a shield. To be young and innocent is to fully live.
As we grow older, our walls grow with us. We become more guarded, more closed off with every cut that becomes embedded on our skin, hearts, and minds. We vow to never be hurt again by some boy, girl, parent, authority figure, family member, friend, anybody and let our skin toughen with each wound. We let the scars heal and pretend we don’t care about them. They become stories we tell when we are connecting with someone but we forget the significance of the event we went through. To be young is to feel the hurt, be wounded, let the scars heal but not letting the walls build as high as they want. The five year old boy may fall and bump his knee but that doesn’t stop him from bouncing back up and continuing to run. He may cry when someone says something mean but that doesn’t stop him from being friends with that person again. He may hurt but he continues to live with open arms, an open heart and an open mind.
When did I stop being like that?
I am so guarded. I wall myself up to save myself. But from what?
I hide and stop myself from being vulnerable so nobody can hurt me. But who?
It’s like I’ve become so used to being guarded and my answers for why have become so rehearsed that I don’t even know why I really do it anymore. There’s a lot of fear in opening up so only a small handful of people have been let in. Even then, no one person gets all of me so that if they do hurt me, it’s easier to bounce back. This is how my mind works. I feel that every piece of information I give away is ammunition I’m placing in their hands that they can use against me, to manipulate me, to hurt me more.
I once heard this quote that said, “Fear is not real. The thing we are afraid of is usually something that hasn’t happened yet. If it hasn’t happened yet, then it isn’t real. Being afraid of something that isn’t real is insanity.”
But what if this, what if that, what if they do this, what if they say that, what if?
My mind is constantly clouded with what ifs but the truth is, none of those what ifs are real because they’re in my mind. I stop myself from experiencing things, saying things, doing things because I’m afraid. Afraid of being hurt, looking foolish, having something used against me. I’m scared constantly of things that haven’t happened and will probably never happen.
Right now, I’m standing on the edge of a big decision. It may not seem like a big decision to most people, but for me, this decision includes giving away my heart fully and to trust someone with all of me. It seems as if every time I have done this in the past, I have been hurt and destroyed and here I am, standing on the edge of what if once again. What if it doesn’t work out? What if he hurts me? What if he doesn’t feel the same way? What if he changes his mind?
What if it works out?
A glimpse of something positive dashes through my mind. The possibility of something actually working out spins around in my mind before the other what ifs come to drown it out, quiet it, destroy it. There’s no way it’ll work out. He’s like the others, he’ll hurt you, he’ll do this, he’ll do that, it’s a mistake.
But what if it’s not?
I want to change my what ifs to something beautiful. Instead of thinking what if it’ll fall apart, I want to think what if it falls together?
Maybe I’ve been the one to help things fall apart. I live in fear of something happening and by doing so, I make that very thing come true. What if I’m brave for once? What if I trust fully? What if I fall in love? What if I do something crazy and it works out? What if?
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But at least I tried, right?
I want to think this way and believe it but my mind is so set on the track of negative what ifs. Sometimes it’s so strong it prevents me from living. I realize that a lot of my what ifs are the root of my anxiety attacks. I get stuck on this never ending treadmill that speeds up faster and faster and I can’t find the stop button. I jam every other button I can see but it only makes the treadmill go faster and steeper. I can’t run anymore and soon I just collapse and let myself be dragged in circles, limp. I’m so tired of running. I’m so tired of being dragged in circles.
What if I jump off the treadmill?
What if I let myself be free and chase a silly five year old boy around in circles instead? What if the only circles I got stuck on came from times when I decided to spin around myself and fall to the ground, laughing? What if I let myself enjoy the colored lollipop without shame? What if I were to kiss my own scars and whisper tenderly to myself?
What if I loved myself enough to let myself live?
I am not a runner. I will never be a runner, and that’s okay with me.
Because maybe I was born to be more. What if?