Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance
Some days, I think writing this blog is ridiculous. This is one of those days. I’m tempted to delete everything and pretend that it never happened. There would be no vacuum created by its absence. The tiny indentation left would quickly be smoothed over by the passing days and another blog by someone else with MS. Seriously, I have nothing unique to say about it. Maybe it’s my low self-esteem doing the talking, or maybe it’s the echo in my head of the stupid things I’ve said and done today. I won’t humiliate myself further by elucidating them. Besides all that, wouldn’t a private journal and a pen be a sufficient enough outlet for me to set my giant free?
There have been several times already when I’ve felt this way. Something always happens to change my mind. Perhaps, my mood will swing to another corner of the room and shift my perspective. Maybe it’s something I sense from this new perch that inspires me. It could be something as simple as a song or a thought-provoking sentence in a book or a Blue Jay’s call on a late summer’s morning. Whatever the cause, my desire to quit begins to lessen and becomes overpowered by my desire to go once again headlong into the unknown.
The unknown is a frightening place to put a vulnerable neck. It’s pitch black and silent and smells like a mildewy basement.
As a kid (I won’t specify how young or how not young…) I was afraid of the dark. My bedroom was way down the hall and around the corner from our den and kitchen. At bedtime, I left my parents in the den and started my epic pilgrimage down the narrow and progressively isolating hall. I’d pause outside my door and prepare myself to go in the room. The light from the hall made the opening into the room appear even darker. Only when I’d turned on the light switch just inside, could I enter the room. I’d slowly put my hand on the door jamb and gradually slide it over the wood until it rounded the corner to the wall. Up and down and all around, my hand slid over the wall in search of the switch like a serpent’s tongue flicking the air. My roaming fingers would find the switch and move it upwards. A sudden burst of adrenaline filled my chest and throat while a warming wash of light filled the room. Time for bed. Don’t ask how I got the light off and back to the bed. There was a protocol for that too.
There are three distinct stages involved in the process of extending into the unknown…
Stage 1: Flip maniacally through the mental Rolodex of possible outcomes.
Imagine the worst possible scenario. The monster that lives under the bed will pounce on my hand before I’ve reached the switch, sink its teeth in and most definitely rip off my arm and devour me in the darkness, leaving the only evidence hidden under the bed where my parents will likely never think to look. Clever monster.
Imagine the best possible scenario. I locate the switch in record time and jump to the bed before the monster ever knows I’ve come. Stupid monster.
Stage 2: Take a deep breath to prepare for the intense, throat-catching, raw fear about to be experienced and launch.
Reach the chosen hand forward to the edge of darkness until the skin detects every molecule of air as the sharp point of a minuscule dagger. A light, foreboding touch. Delve in. Quickly and quietly find the switch.
Stage 3: Swallow down the thumping heart climbing up the throat and bask in the glory of a mission accomplished.
Find the switch. Turn on the light. Jump into bed. Disappear under the covers. Celebrate one more victory over the monster.
I’m getting more comfortable with my giant. I can’t erase it like I could this blog, and I can’t ignore it because it always finds a way back into view. For brief moments, I take my giant’s hand in mine. A current of exhilarating and electric fear travels from my palm to meet my spine, and my grip fails. Yet, I acknowledge it for that microsecond. The giant perceives this as a long-awaited kindness and returns the sentiment. The horizon grows a little wider and more distant. I then see that the gratification in this one small victory over the fear more than heals the damage left in its wake. I should give us more room to explore than the little journal in my nightstand drawer. So I forge on alongside my giant, and occasionally, momentarily, we link.
My giant will never quit. Why should I?