14 Oct 2016

Existential Terror and a Little Bit More of “This or That?”

In spin class today I heard the song, “I Lived” by One Republic. Well, I’ve heard that song a couple dozen times before – I’ve got a teenager. But this time, I really listened. I usually roll my eyes; inside I’m thinking I don’t want a broken heart or broken bones – “Great for you, do it all, but that’s not for me.” Then I started thinking. I went a little deeper and starting thinking about the actual message of the song – truly living, being brave, being vulnerable, being willing to get hurt for the amazing gift of depth of experience.

And then, I started thinking about my old friend, existential terror. I’ve experienced existential terror since I was a little kid. For those of you who don’t know what it is, and I hope that’s most of you, it’s kind of a sharp panic attack that goes to your core, and the subject is existing. For me, it feels like I got on a train that I can’t get off and that I’m not so sure the train is going to a place I want to go. It’s scary. Anyway, this feeling of not wholly trusting existence, because I’m not sure about the whole plan for what comes after, has often kept me from really living. I know it seems crazy – my teenage daughter tells me so. And she’s right. Intellectually it makes no sense, but emotionally it’s solid!

But today, when I heard this song (and thank you One Republic, sorry I may have scoffed at you before) I imagined going to an adventure park and sitting on a bench; not going on any of the rides because I knew I’d be leaving and not sure where it was I’d go. In that moment, I was certain I wouldn’t do that!

“I did it all” doesn’t mean I’d have to go on all the rides.  I’d skip Space mountain and the spinning cups – they make me sick. But I’d go on all the rides I was drawn to. I’d go on all the ones I wanted to, even if they scared me. I’d play This or That! I’d be brave and I’d have fun.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Well, great, but what does this have to do with relationships?” It has very much to do with your relationship to yourself and your general comfort in the world, which has everything to do with your ability to have successful, fulfilling and fun relationships with everyone and everything else. This is where the bar gets set. You can’t have a better relationship with any other being than you do with yourself. It’s just not going to happen.

So, listen to the song, any version. Next, get grounded – listen to Hindu chants, meditate, do some deep breathing, or go to spin class. Embrace a “practice”  whatever works for you to feel connected and safe in the world. Then notice and think about how you feel on this wild ride and what attractions you might like to visit. Play This or That? Get to know yourself. Honor who you find. Play with trusting existence, and have some fun. Then go out and find some good buddies to share it with!



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