What drives you?
Not just to get up in the morning (I must work to pay for my roof, my food, to survive), but what drives you to do more than just survive? To push into the unknown, to take a risk?
I used to fear relationships and commitment in the same way people fear death. It’s why I stayed single so long after high school, and one of the reasons (besides my crazy sickness) that caused much of the trouble in the two relationships I had after coming out of my post-highschool dating hiatus. I was terrified of getting close to people, of getting into anything serious, of not having an escape route, of showing weakness, of relying on somebody who was, by definition, unreliable. After all, anyone who wasn’t me was unreliable.
That was all about to change.
I’d been in a relationship for three years in high school, lived with the guy for six months, turned him down – twice – when he asked me to marry him. And in that relationship, my first taste of what it was “relationships” were supposed to be, I became everything I hated.
I became a weak-willed, screaming, miserable wreck. I hated myself. I wanted to kill myself. I was a depressed, hysterical ball of self-hatred. I was terrified of everything. Terrified of my boyfriend, terrified of change, terrified of failing even more than I’d already failed. I took fistfuls of my waitressing tip money and watched “Titanic” in the theaters, over and over, wishing I could be that brave to just break away from everything – all of the promises, the expectations. I should have had everything I wanted. I should have been happy. But this wasn’t the life I wanted. This wasn’t who I wanted to be, and I didn’t know how to change it. Change felt terrifying. Failure was terrifying.
But this, this life, was worse.
I made the connection somewhere in my head that it was my reliance on my boyfriend, it was this weak, sobbing, scary relationship that had caused me to become this way, and that if I avoided getting too close, avoided relying on somebody else, if I relied only on my own strength, then I’d never become that person again.
When I was asked to shed this idea in later relationships, it was like asking me to kill myself. It was like asking me to pull out the vital clockwork inside of myself that had built me into this strong, brave person who took risks and put a backpack on her back and just went. Oh, what a brave person I’d become! Moving on when things got too stale, too comfortable. Moving on because I believed with every taut fiber in my body that if I got too comfortable, if I got stale, I’d become that weak, groveling, sniveling piece of shit I had been.
I just had to keep moving. I had to cut people out of my life, and keep moving.
Jenn told me this was a shit-ass crazy way to live my life, but it’s all I had. I had no driving force to replace it. Taking this belief away from me would be like cutting off my leg and telling me to walk. I wouldn’t know how. I’d have to learn everything all over again.
One of the brutal experiences of my eighteen months of supreme craziness was realizing how easy it was to die. Was coming to the understanding of how much easier it was for me to die, on a daily basis, than everybody else. My death was just a little bit closer.
I should be dead already.
I made some crazy decisions based on that near-death experience. Some crazy decisions and then… some other crazier ones.
I was thinking about past relationships, past loves, and remembering an ex who really hated himself, drove himself to do stuff with this ragged internal monologue of self-hate, and I thought, God, how can you use self-hate as such a powerful motivator? How could I be with someone so full of self-hate?
And then I remembered that that’s how I used to be. That’s what drove me. Self-hate. Fear. Hate at the person I used to be. Fear of becoming that person again. Fear of giving it all up, of throwing up my hands and crying and saying, “That’s all I could do.” Not fear of never accomplishing anything, but fear of never even trying.
I don’t mind failure.
What I mind is the not trying.
With the self-hate gone, with that terror-motivation gone, I realized… Yeah. With that gone, I was finally able to let go and love people, and start planning for futures; futures with other people in my life besides, well, me. For the first time, I allowed my heart to be broken. Really broken. Not hurt. Not bruised. I opened myself up that way. And it sucked, and it made me feel weak and stupid. I hated it.
But it wasn’t the end of the world. Far from it.
So if I wasn’t being driven by self-hate anymore, what was driving me? Something had to keep me going. There’s something else that pushes me to make a better career for myself, to keep pounding out books, to develop a kick-ass workout plan to get the buffness I want, to budget, to build a life. Where does that motivation come from? Not just to imagine that life, but to build it? I could just sit around delivering the bare minimum at work, bumming off my roommates until they kicked me out, renting forever, blaming others for my problems, racking up more credit card debt, building one-sided relationships, going to be early, giving up on workouts, cause really, why bother? Who cares?
I care. And I care enough to use everything in my power to build the life I want.
Where does it come from?
From almost dying. From seeing how easily everything just… stops. You just go to sleep. And you don’t wake up. That’s it.
There’s no great mystery, no second chances, no pie in the sky, no ghostly light, nobody’s hand in the dark. You just go to sleep. You’re done.
This is all you’ve got.
The realization of how precious this is, how close we all are to just stopping… It really pulled me up short this year. It make me realize how much I still want to do. I remind myself every day that I’m living on borrowed time. Time even more precious than before, because it’s like getting a second chance. A second chance to live, to create, to love, to build, to do.
In death, everything stops.
If death is about stopping, then living is about going. Pushing. Moving forward.
It’s not just other people who are unreliable anymore. My own body betrayed me. I’m unreliable, too. We’re all taking a risk. We’re all afraid. All of us have hearts that can be broken. That’s the risk we take. Every day.
We’re all afraid.
But my desire to live, to really LIVE, trumps all those fears. All those risks.
Living is all we’ve got.