Balloon for Boston, @vogelian2012
I am not OK. Things are not fine.
I’m in Minnesota now, far in miles away from the bomb site, but close right here within blast radius of the firestorm fear in my head. I can’t get away from it. I hear roars from the cheering football crowds on TV and it sounds like screams of panic, mass chaos. I hear sirens everywhere. Everything is out to get me.
It’s the sounds that disturb me most. Ticking clocks, anything human-made feigning normalcy. Sights help me. Sitting in the porch, watching the snow melt through the window in the sunlight soothes me. Motion helps too. Driving fast through the country with the windows down, music blasting, wind blending into my skin. Stopping at an unknown playground, families sledding down the schoolyard hill, I hit the bars, the beams, tracks, springs, then the swings, I swing until I’m high then I backflip off that thing, perfect ten landing in the snow, arms up and everything.
I need to keep moving. It’s not avoiding, it’s healing. I’m done with indoor complaints, says Whitman. Me too. If I’m unhappy in city settings and I don’t like the sound of my own complaining, then I’m not going to live here. I didn’t like living in cities before, now how do you think I feel. Terrified. Constrained. Hunted. Exposed. I don’t want to feel that anymore.
So how do we do it? How can I overcome these bomb blasts playing over and over in my head? How can I let go of the pain nestled nephariously in my intestines, mine, that of my friends, my country?
It’s internal. This is a head game. My friend says if I’m afraid then the terrorists are getting exactly what they want. He’s right. I’m not about to let ANYONE disrespect me and my family by taking ANYTHING without asking permission first and then receiving it. I’ve seen that happen too many times in history classes, in my own life, and I’m damn sick of other people’s history books with their bloodshed coated in simpery non-subjective sentences about who died and how and nothing constructive and no hope for humanity. BOSTON GOT BOMBED AND PEOPLE GOT HURT AND I’M FUCKING MAD ABOUT IT AND I CHOOSE NOT TO BE AFRAID. This story’s mine. I’m writing this book, and I will not be afraid. And it actually is my choice. Fear is a choice – I’m not kidding.
Try this. Imagine you’re blowing up a balloon – not like you blow up a bomb, like you’re just blowing some air from your mouth into some rubbery stuff. My balloon is green, you can choose any color you like. I’m inflating the balloon but it’s not with air, it’s with my fear. The fear is real, so the balloon actually does inflate. You can’t see air but it’s there, you can’t see fear but you feel it like you feel a tornado, so believe it. The balloon grows big, bigger than my head. The green rubber is stretching stretching, looking like it’s about to burst, but it’s just growing growing – there’s really that much noxious stuff inside of me. I know when to stop blowing not because the balloon is about to pop, but because I listen to my own breath, my own heart, then with my head I think OK, this is it, I am letting this go now, I am done with this fear. There is more coming, but right now I am done.
I tie off the balloon and hold the knot between my thumb and index finger. It’s light as nothing. It’s actually straining hard as it can to get away from me, it’s lifting me up, trying to take me away. Was this what was going on inside of me? Is fear heavy, or is it explosively light? Right now it doesn’t matter. It’s contained in my balloon, and with a deep breath I open my eyes and I let the balloon go. I don’t throw it, I just lift my finger apart from my thumb, a simple motion, a choice, and it’s gone, flying off into the breeze, away away away, until it floats so high as out of the atmosphere, and bursts into gold, raining back down on the earth like heavenly tears, replenishing the world below, encouraging everything to grow.
See what happens when you let go of fear? It transforms into something else entirely, actually re-nutrifying, recycling. Fear doesn’t mean any harm, it’s just energy, needs to be let out like the dog. Let it out. Don’t stay silent. Don’t feed it – don’t buy into the hype. Breathe it away, then look around you and appreciate this beautiful beautiful day. What happened only moments ago, that’s gone. We have the scars, but I choose to march onward, and I’m reaching my hand back to you, or in front, wherever you are, know I care. I don’t know you, but I care that you’re well and happy. That’s for free.
So I’m not OK. Now that this round of fear is gone, I’m more than OK, I’m well to middling. Things aren’t fine. Things are just things, I see them more objectively now. I have to have faith. I have to believe I am safe at home. It doesn’t feel true right now, but fake-it-til-you-make-it – as much as I hate that – is what has to happen right now.
Tonight I am watching Lincoln the movie. I remember seeing it in December and being happy and sad all at once. Sad because the world was once at war and people got hurt, happy because the people in charge of running my fair country worked as hard as they could to create a safe place for the people that worked to make this country what it is – a haven for life, liberty, and the pursuit of dreams.
America has torn itself apart before and it’s happening again with all the fear and hate that is spreading, no matter whether the hate started within us or came from without (everything’s the same under the sun anyway, isn’t it?). Every time we tear ourselves open, we have found love at the bottom of things, and we have come out stronger. It is a choice. I choose love over fear, I choose action instead of malaise. It’s not pretty, this anger, depression and destruction raging inside of me, but that’s what swimming is for, that’s why the wilderness exists, to remind us that like flowers in full bloom, new things are born every day, and they are beautiful. I will move my body and churn out this stuff and breathe away the fear and take in the peace and relish the sunshine, all on my own time.
Let us walk towards the light, let go of the shadows, our worries, the shackles that bind. It is a new day, I am not OK, I am shining like an endless sea and it will take more than two bombs on a city street to let fear or hate conquer me.