I am writing this post from my hotel room near the end of my vacation. I forgot to post that I was going on vacation, so for those of you who have been waiting for a post for a week, my apologies. I have been having a lovely time, away.
Anyway. I have discovered this trip what one of my deepest and most visceral fears in the real world is and, like I do, am now wondering if it also applies to my writing patterns.
We went on a cave tour. I have not been in a cave since I was a child, but I remember them being beautiful and a source of wonderment. I expected no problems. I was wrong. I had a moment of near panic when we were at the deepest point, when I realized that I didn’t know the way out. That I was utterly dependent on the lights, and the signs, and the guide, and if anything happened I would be lost there in the underground, helpless and trapped.
My husband had a similar moment, but his came when we were walking down a narrow tunnel. He couldn’t stand the constriction, the press of stone around him. My issue was different. It was not the claustrophic sense of being enclosed, and it was not the darkness that lurked just beyond the light. Had the lights gone out the darkness would not have frightened me. What had me shaking was the sense that I could not save myself. I was ignorant of the layout, and I am ignorant of general survival skill for spelunkers. I didn’t know the way out, and I would not be able to find it on my own – I was trapped.
What made me realize this is probably the fear that leaps out of the boggart’s cabinet at me were the following two consonant experiences:
(1) The time I got locked in a walk-in cooler with the lights out was terrifying not because of the dark or the cold or the thought that no one would find me, but because I could not find the door and then lost all orientation. My cave panic was similar to the cooler, because what made me fear was that I could not get out of the situation on my own.
(2) The only recurring nightmare I have ever had is that I am in a car and it falls, either because it is going up a hill too steep to climb or down a hill to steep to brake the descent, or over a cliff on some mountain pass. Sometimes I am driving, sometimes someone else is, but the terror is always the same – once that fall begins, I can no longer change what happens to me.
All of this together made me realize that my phobia is not being able to control what happens to me.
It explains why my reaction to religious or philosophical ideas based on fate is to want to shoot myself, if I believed them to be true. If I were shown that everything is preordained and nothing I think or do or say is my own, then I would as soon not go through the motions. (This matters, by the way, because I cannot actually see any real-world circumstances – torture porn scenarios are excepted from this discussion – in which I would choose to end my life. I simply love being alive too much to see wanting to end it sooner than it already will.)
I like to order my world according to my own culpability. I understand that things will happen that I cannot predict and cannot control, but I am also very much aware that I control how I react, and that my choice of action and reaction is going to affect what happens to me in the aftermath. I get annoyed with people who play the victim of fate card – everyone is, just grow a pair and deal with it. I am not afraid of life events but rather of being put in situations where I have no options to act, where I must simply accept what happens because I cannot change a thing.
So all of this makes me wonder, with my writing – is my getting stuck and paralyzed when I don’t know what happens next related to my need to have at least a little influence on my life? Do I feel at the mercy of something and unable to direct my writing? Or is it merely a fear of not being perfect?
Hard to say. Perhaps next time I am stuck I will try to analyze what I am feeling through this lens and see what I think then. In the meantime, no more caves for Lily.