If all we can ever interact with is what our senses give us, what our mind construct from the caresses of the universe, then we all live in different worlds. Recently, mine has changed. It used to be a place of sunlight. A place where closed doors in back alleys contained hidden pub rooms full of joyful, boisterous laughter. I used to live in a world where some benevolent God had childproofed everything, and nothing I could touch would cut me.
Not anymore. Now, the shadows lengthen in the brightest part of day. The doors conceal horrors. Every edge is sharpened. The world around me hasn’t changed, but I have changed, and that changes everything. For the first time in my life, I’m struggling with anxiety. I’ve always been a nervous person. I’ve always had more than my fair share of fear.
This is different. This something warped and alien, something that is sometimes crippling in its immensity. I’ve seen it in others, read about it, studied it. Touched up against in with my mother, with my wife, with some of my closest friends.
But it was always distant. Jagged knives cannot cut you if they’re in the drawer. I felt their suffering with my empathy, but it was ephemeral. It flared up when I was near it—I loved them, so I felt their pain–but I always recovered. I always healed. These days, I’m not healing so well. The wounds stay open.
Maybe all the bad things in my life have piled so heavily that they’ve finally splintered my spine. Maybe I’m just older, and I’ve lost my resiliency. I know that my anxiety is is mild compared to that of many people, but it’s so new, so fresh, that my skin is thin and easily pricked. I don’t know how to handle the fact that what once was a safe, comforting world is suddenly full of sick, hungry, threatening things that wish nothing more than to crack me open and drink deeply of my fear. For someone who has always been happy go lucky, it’s like living in a horror story.
The thing is, I love horror stories. I read them, I watch them, I play them, I write them. I never wanted to live one, but that is my world, now, whether I want it or not. That gives me a choice.
Whatever awful things my brain chemistry has planned for me, I still have a choice. I can run from it, pretend it isn’t happening, or I can turn around and stare into the ravenous blackness breathing down the back of my neck and find out what it looks like. If you can’t write effectively about France without ever having been there, maybe the same is true of the darkness.
I’m stepping into that cold, lonely place. I cannot make that go away simply by wishing. But I plan on coming back. I plan on getting back to the sunlight, though it may never be so innocently bright as it once was. Maybe I can bring some of the darkness back with me. Maybe I can make of it shapes, horrible and beautiful, that my tender eyes could never have witnessed, and my jovial brain could never have conceived.
Maybe, through my suffering, I can spin a few Tales.