✍ CURRENTLY WRITING FROM: ST. GEORGE, UTAH
One of my biggest insecurities is being useless in my relationships. I want to be useful in every situation. This isn't healthy, or right: this insecurity of mine leads me to be disingenuous in a lot of the things that I do. In my head, I think I'm doing something kind to be kind; however, a large part of the "kind" things I do is to be loved more, or to keep being loved.
During the month of August, I became unhealthily obsessed with River Phoenix. Thinking about him makes my body jolt. I feel like my connection to him is haunted: I don't feel calm when I think about River Phoenix. I first acknowledged him when I was in high school, and had a crush on Joaquin Phoenix, and a google search revealed that he had a brother who was also famous, but was dead. When I saw his birthday was August twenty-third, I felt a kinship with him, but I didn't think about him much after this, not even when I saw Stand by Me for the first time.
I read what people said about River Phoenix after he died, and that's what made me feel even more attached to the idea of him. An incredible article was written by Tad Friend for Esquire in 1994, which I definitely recommend. It was published five months after River passed away. The journalist narrates River's funeral, and plugs in a lot of flashbacks and commentary on Rio's life. It's very honest: he doesn't erase what happened to him. But! Oh man, there's something so addicting about the testimonials people have on River Phoenix.
It's unsettling... but I want to have a similar effect on people. I want to be timeless.
"Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow."
That's the larger problem, too, and I recognize it: my gross need to be immortal.
I was lying on my bed as a tiny nine-year-old one day. I was thinking about death as seriously as a nine-year-old can. Earlier that week, I had expressed to my dad that I was afraid of dying. My father, a no-nonsense, get-it-together-young-lady sort of man, said, "Sweetie, you don't have to be afraid, because when you die, you're going to go to heaven!" I believed him immediately, and then I was not afraid of death.
I began to think about heaven instead. The Bible says that in heaven, the streets will be paved with gold; my dad told me that in heaven, "you won't be sad, and you will never cry." I began to think about this, when suddenly, I sat upright, and my body began to get very hot, and my breath quickened, because I began to think about eternity as a concept. In my head, I saw images of me playing ping pong with Jesus and Abraham and Esther... forever. My vision began to blur as I thought about how there would probably not be night time in heaven, would I even eat in heaven, where is the line drawn, where does human behavior end in heaven--
I don't like thinking about eternity and I don't like thinking about my death and I don't like thinking about my existence... but goshdarnit, I want to exist forever.
I read once that you die twice: your body’s physical death, and the last time anyone utters your name. I’d like to stretch these two events as far apart as I can. William Shakespeare has been dead for exactly 400 years, and everyone knows who he is. He can never die. The idea of him transcends chronology. I want my existence to have not been in vain: I want to be admired. I want my colossal ego to be laid to rest peacefully, with the knowledge that there was something honorable about me.
I'm re-reading the first part of this post, and I'm thinking about how it begins with, "One of my biggest insecurities is..." And I'm thinking about how a lot of people are very afraid of being vulnerable. Jack Kerouac wrote in his journals: "Don’t tell them too much about your soul. They’re waiting for just that." And I'm wondering... what is so special about our souls that has to be kept private?
I've been cynical for an uncomfortably long time, so maybe I'm being extremely naïve on purpose, but are we all intentionally out to get people? And even if those people are out there, aren't we smart enough to decide who to tell what?
Whenever I'm having bouts of panic in public, I tell my friend I trust. They will pause with me until I feel better (which usually happens after I've communicated how I feel), and then the problem is gone: they are back to thinking about themselves (not a bad thing) so I don't have to be embarrassed, and I also don't feel panicked anymore.
When Sabrina asks me how I feel, I'll say "I feel sad" if it's true. She'll ask me why. I'll frown, raise an eyebrow, and say: "I have no idea!" After saying this out loud, I immediately feel like I don't have to act out my pain for her to notice it, and we won't have any miscommunication. I also know that Sabrina doesn't like to dwell on any negativity, so me sharing that I feel sad won't affect her day.
This obviously requires trial-and-error. I used to bare my soul to everyone who would listen, which was very damaging for me, because I'd feel incredibly hurt if people didn't react the way I wanted them to. Also, you can be careful about what you share with whom, and how: perhaps don't one-up someone else's pain, and also, don't make others feel anxious about how you feel. Don't make it their responsibility to make you feel better.
I'm wondering whether it's true that people are attracted to the ugliness in others. The imperfections that you can relate to. Can you feel like you can comfortably be you around someone who appears non-relatable?
"A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."
Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan