Across the Chasm

Making some kind of authentic contact with you (and you can be anyone) is hard for me these days. Not that it’s ever been easy, but in the past I’ve sometimes been in settings that help to break the ice.

Right now, I’m aware of a visual metaphor for what happens when I try to meet you. I picture our place of meeting–the place where there is some real, non-bullshit exchange between us–as a small plateau on a rock spire in the middle of a vast chasm.

That’s where the magic happens, but first I have to get there.

In my metaphor, I start out in the swamp. Call it the swamp of shame. Why not? The very first challenge involves shame, because it’s what taking any action requires me to face. To wake up, to pull myself from inertia, means facing shame. The shame of seeing where I really am; the shame of what have I done and how could I have gotten here and why didn’t I do something sooner.

The squelchy ground tries to hold on to my feet with every step, but if I persevere I get to firmer ground at last…Wait. Why can’t I see where I’m going?

Right. I’m out of the swamp, but onto the plain of mental fog.

The mental fog of sleep deprivation. Of a screwed-up metabolism or poor self-care or the damn psych meds so necessary to keep doing my best. Trying to block my path, trick and exhaust me into turning back, or just remind me of how pathetically slow and uncertain my steps are.

But, if I persevere, I reach a place of clearer air and fuck, that’s a big mountain.

Even though experience has taught me that its height and steepness is partially illusory, it’s hard not to be intimidated. The mountain represents the amount of effort needed to take an action in the face of depression, not to mention more mundane resistances such as laziness or procrastination. It takes juice to tackle it, and humility to accept the necessity of one uncertain or scrabbling step at a time.

But, if I persevere, I ascend far enough up the slope to see the entrance of where I need to go and oh god, I do not want to go in there.

Did you ever see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? My condolences. Anyway, picture the bug-filled tunnel from that. Bugs squishing under my feet, my ears filled with the clacking of millions of tiny mandibles, and my skin crawling under the brush of millions of legs.

I’m making my way through the tunnel of resentment. Resentment, envy, jealousy, self-pity…all trying to keep me separate from you. Trying to make you other, or keep me other, or just cause me enough pain and frustration to make me think it’s not worth the trouble. Trying to click and squelch and slime away the love I feel for you and the truth of our human connection.

But, if I persevere, I reach the other side of the tunnel. I’ve left the bugs and enclosing tunnel behind. The ground is firm rock beneath my feet, and the air is clear. I can see the spire ahead of me, and the small plateau where we will meet–and the bottomless, black chasm between here and there.

You probably guessed it. What’s the most primal, deepest barrier to experience? It’s fear. It’s the chasm of fear, and it yawns between me and you.

Fear of rejection. Fear of judgment. Fear of things we don’t have names for, fear that makes no fucking sense in the face of a logical weighing of risks and benefits. Fear ingrained, to a greater to lesser degree, into the most primitive structures of our brains.

I must weave a bridge from gossamer-thin filaments, made from the only materials and power I have. The same materials that made up the rocks my feet found in the swamp, or the handholds on the side of the mountain. The same power that guided me through the fog and illuminated the tunnel.

The materials and power of my self, my stories, the things I believe and the grace that animates them. As thin (but strong) as spidersilk, the bridge they create will make the terrifying journey possible.

Here is the story I tell myself about our meeting. I tell myself that even though I don’t see it, you have gone through a journey of your own to get to that plateau. I tell myself that you’ve got a swamp and a foggy plain and a tunnel and a chasm too. I tell myself that we are kindred, and that we must be pretty important to each other if we go through all of this to meet.

Yet I know I could be wrong–maybe, for you, it really is just going out for a cup of coffee.

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