I think we all like to think of ourselves as independent and free-spirited. If we're not, we try to shore up our courage so that we can become more brave, more brazen and daring. Brave is a word we throw around when we see people doing things that we think would be hard for us to do. It's a word that too-kind people have sometimes laid at my feet. The truth is I don't feel brave at all. People who know me will attest to the fact that my default state is not confidence. There's so much I'm scared of; new relationships and people, my own happiness and my own sadness too, of being stuck and of growing old in that state of stuckness.
I don't think I'm special being scared of all of those things. The one thing I've learned is just to come out and say I'm terrified a lot of the time and people usually quickly express the same thing and a sort of new ground is established. The beautiful thing about vulnerability is that it's often shared. And I've found, to be honest, that I don't much care for those who don't feel some degree of fear about life in general most of the time.
I also think it's okay to admit the power of certain talismans to give us strength. I'm not one for saints and religion, but certain objects and symbols give me a feeling of structure and certainty. Sometimes I let myself follow those objects, assigning meaning to moments because of them. I know it's all arbitrary, all pretty unoriginal; I'm not the only girl to love waxing moons and garden roses, after all. But I don't mind cultivating certain recurring themes in my life, letting them form signposts or protection spells, wearing them to give me a sense of certainty and of self when I feel less brave.
And sometimes I seek and lean into other people's ideas and expressions too (like Ben's recent post). Posts like this bolster my own decisions and lift the loneliness that can arise from choices that go against the conventional grain. Sometimes that makes me feel all the more weak, like I shouldn't need others to legitimize how I feel. But there's more to it than safety in numbers. It's also about reading an expression that seems more true because it sits outside of oneself, rather in the mire of introspection.
I think it was an episode of In Treatment where it was explained why therapists need therapy, how one can only look outwards with binoculars, not look into oneself. I liked that idea a lot. The problem then isn't one of acuity, it's of vantage. When I build arguments for my choices, they're knotted up in all kinds of emotions. It's easy to sound defensive or dishonest to oneself, to lose that impartial perspective of just listening. We often tend to think introspection must be more true because it has privileged access. But what it has in access it lacks in objective distance.
The point is I used to feel bad for needing things outside myself to help me along, for needing mentors and signposts, talismans and reassurances. I used to think I ought to be able to just forge ahead, with my own internal reasoning, even my own irrational desires. But I think now that there's a difference between seeking approval from others and seeking perspective and likemindedness and faith. I've always been such an in-my-own-head sort of girl, moody and pensive. But I'm learning to let things outside of myself lend me support, to let the moon talk to me and other people finish my sentences sometimes. The nagging high-minded idea of independence is still there. But, there's also a growing idea that it's okay to find support in the world around me too.