Inspirational Song of the Day: Kelly Clarkson – Invincible
“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always … so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.”
– Yann Martel, ‘Life of Pi’
I drove home for the holidays this year. Home for me is in the wild and woolly badlands of Southwest Kansas. Yeah, all those wheat fields and grain silos can set a cold, dead fear in the souls of lesser men, or women, as the case might be. Just over the Colorado border on a lonely patch of Hwy 50 is an overpass that rises above miles of unbroken flat grassland. As I ascended its heights, I recalled countless other times I’ve crossed it. Hungover. Cold-sweaty hands on the wheel. Heart pounding. Not looking to either side until my vehicle touched down on the other side. Now, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving across my home state, the only state in the continental U.S. in which you can stand on your head and see all the way to the opposing border, you know that we have cow manure piles and prairie dog hills with loftier altitudes than any of our Hwy. overpasses. So, as I drove over this same old bump in the road a couple of weeks ago, my last hangover being somewhere around six years ago, I wondered how it had managed to terrify me so.
There’s actually a physiological explanation for it, all that mindless anxiety that drinking too heavy and too long saddles us with. Something to do with serontonin and a few other neurotransmitters (it’s always those batrastards starting all the trouble.) that get thrown into that chicken and egg cycle when we down a couple of drinks to relax, then, when the relax part starts nodding off and anxiety pushes it off the barstool and takes a seat, we drink some more to relax some more. Rinse and repeat, as we like to say.
Since I broke that cycle six years ago, I’ve found I’m not near the coward I thought I was. I’ve got a whole list of things, I’m no longer afraid of. Here’s just a few:
Overpasses, bridges, police cars, breathalyzers, falling off barstools, 2 a.m., 4 a.m., meeting my husband’s eyes in the a.m., brushing my teeth in the a.m., poached eggs-scratch that, they still scare the hell out of me, checking facebook in the a.m., having shaky hands and boozy breath at work in the a.m., not remembering how I got the scabs on my knees, hearing about what I did last night in gleeful detail, not remembering why I got that tattoo, seeing embarrassment in my kids’ eyes, seeing fear in my kids’ eyes, not being invited to my grandkids’ weddings, meeting someone new and having them say, “Don’t you remember? We met at the Hotchkiss’s party last Friday night?” Friday nights, Saturday mornings, any given day in general, how I’ll act at Christmas parties, book club, baptisms, weddings, funerals, play dates, lunch dates, dinner dates, seeing videos of my dance moves, wondering whether I should drive home, how I got home, who drove me home, where are my keys, my car, my panties, oh, shoot, how did I chip my front tooth, just how much did I tell that perfect stranger about my relationship with my mother, how many times did I tell the perfect stranger how much I love her-the stranger that is, not my mother, my mother’s look of bitter disappointment in the sweet hereafter, telling my boss he really needs to re-think that comb-over at the Christmas office party-I wouldn’t say anything if I didn’t love him, really love him-what the garbage collector is going to think about all of those empties, what the neighbor is going to think when I put my empties in her bin, losing sleep because I spent the night worrying about how early my neighbor gets up in the morning, losing sleep worrying about how early I’ll have to get up to sneak my empties into her bin, the liquor store clerk keeping a tally of how many times I come in per week, forgetting which liquor store I went to last, spending Thanksgiving and Christmas at the VFW potluck because my kids didn’t invite me, dying alone and broken…
Yep, I’m pretty much fearless these days.
How about you? Have you noticed you’re feeling kind of fearless yourself after not drinking for over two weeks? What fears have gone missing? What fears do you have yet to conquer?
I can tell you one fear you will never have again. You will never again be afraid of going this long without drinking. You’ve crushed that one.