When I woke up around 6 a.m. Monday, I felt sick at my stomach. I hadn’t been able to get to sleep until about 4 a.m. and then I had awakened every few minutes after that. By 6, I had been sleeping long enough to feel disoriented but not long enough to feel any sense of rest.
Through the fog of exhaustion, I had a feeling so disturbing that I forced myself to wake up enough to make a few notes before I fell asleep again and forgot.
“I know how to feel terrible and something in me prefers that, because I know how to deal with it,” I typed on the iPhone note. “This is a terrible feeling, but as terrible as I feel, I have a strange sense through the grogginess that this is easier to deal with than being happy — because I know how to deal with what this feels like. I’m not entirely comfortable being happy, because I don’t have enough experience with it.”
I suspect that being exhausted and half asleep allowed me to consciously feel something that lurks unnoticed at other times. And I can’t quit thinking about that.
This isn’t a new conversation for me, but it’s one I keep needing to have with myself. I’ve written about it multiple times, too, but I still keep having to come face to face with the reality that I haven’t conquered this particular fear. I’m still scared of the things which might make me happy, especially whoever might give me love.
I’m scared of being happy, but I think the real fear is of finally trusting love and happiness — only to have it slip from me again like the repeat ending of a lifelong tragedy.
Whenever this comes up, my thoughts turn to singer Sam Phillips speaking of her fear of what she needs in her 1987 song, “Libera Me.” (Her early work was released under the name Leslie Phillips, so that’s the name on the YouTube copy of this song.)
I am so afraid
If I keep hoping
That there will come a day
When my heart is open
That you will walk away
Like you were never there
And I don’t know all the truth
From the lying
But I know that I need you
Because I am dying
From being held by hell
In a cell of blinding fear
I know what I want. I know what I need. But I am terrified to hope to have those things — because losing them would be far worse than desperately needing them.
I know how to need love. I know how to crave being understood. I know how to imagine the wife and family and success which I long for. But because the things I wanted were snatched from me when I was a child — and had absolutely no control over my life — I still fear even hoping for what I need.
There is a part of me which is actually trying to avoid love. Maybe I don’t think I deserve to be loved. Maybe I’m afraid of what others will see when they really know who I am. Maybe I’m afraid I’ll disappoint those who want to love us.
There are a million different excuses, but for someone who has learned the fine art of self-sabotage, almost any excuse will do. Until I find a way to believe I can have what I need — and find someone whose love I can trust — I’m going to “run away when I come face to face with anything I need.”
This day was a blur. I had intended to spend the day making a real estate video about how you can know the value of your home. But this feeling I woke up with hasn’t left me alone. It’s like a cloud that I want to ignore, but ignoring it never seems to work.
I know how to be a smiling and compliant person who’s miserable and unhappy inside. That’s easy. I’ve dealt with it all my life. It’s comfortable. And because of that, “I am dying from being held by hell in a cell of blinding fear.”
I don’t like living this way. I know what I want instead. But in my heart, I’m terrified of losing what I don’t yet even have.
I have to learn to stop running away from what I want — once I can trust I’ve found love that won’t run away from me.