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I am trying to maintain my honesty with you. It isn’t easy (it’s never easy): I want all the time to smooth things over, to make things nice, to prettify and gentle up and otherwise avoid conflict. Avoid confrontation. Avoid facing all the unsavory things that have passed between us. I’m trying not to force myself to do anything but look. Ah, but I’ve written all this before; we don’t need it again.

I’m afraid of winter. I’m afraid of the darkness and the cold, afraid that the crystalline joy I’ve found here will freeze and crack and fall apart when the sun fails, that it will fail me, that I will find myself once more in bed all day, for three days straight without sleeping, staring at the wall, starving myself because food has lost its meaning, because I’ve lost the will to even eat. I don’t want to be in that place again. I desperately do not want to be in that place again.

Part of this, all this writing and this digging and this Zen bullshit and its suddenness and intensity is a reaction to that fear. I need to not go there again. I feel overly dramatic just saying it, but I’m really not sure I would survive it again, really. Forty thousand words ago, when I talked about oatmeal saving my life, I was pretty literally serious. I suppose I’ve said this. But when I think about that darkness, that winter, the cold… it makes me panic, to be honest. It really scares me a lot.

That place, that winter, changed me, because before then I’d had no reason to think that I wouldn’t be happy anywhere I happened to go, no matter what I happened to be doing or who I happened to be with. There had been some teenage angst, certainly, and middle school was pretty miserable, but I still retained an essentially happy self. Nothing that a good book and some popcorn couldn’t cure. After that city, I have found myself with the fear that I might never be happy, not really, again, anywhere. Anywhere. To find a contentment here, a joy in learning that I had feared I’d lost, a joy in living that I’d feared I would never feel again: I am terrified of losing it. Terrified of losing it because I am not worthy of having it, or because I do not appreciate it enough, or just because I am afraid of losing it. The more you fear, the more you lose. So I’m trying to scratch my way to the bottom of that fear, to its twisted roots, and I’m trying to look at it in the big ugly face.

I’m afraid I’m not really smart enough to do this. I’m afraid that I don’t have the dedication and the energy to follow through with it, that I’ll get bored and wander off, or that I’ll get discouraged and walk away. I’m afraid that I’m just not good enough, but I’m not sure what that means: that I’m lacking some virtue that real scholars or real activists or real whatever it is I want to be have. I’m afraid that hard work won’t do it, that it’ll just fall out of my grasp. I’m afraid of some random tragedy: I’ll get hit in the head by an anvil dropped from a tenth-story window and never speak or read or hypothesize again. I’m afraid that something important will be taken from me when I’m not looking: your love, for instance, and I’ll be crippled. I’m not sure what-all else I’m afraid of, but I know there’s more there, and all of it has me gripping onto this life here with a hold resembling a vice much more closely than I’d prefer.

So then: a digging and a scratching and a ceaseless asking of why? Why am I not comfortable with what I have and who I am? Why do I feel like I need to change it all, or any of it? Why don’t I think I’m smart – all the evidence of years of school imply that I’m at least a little bit smart. I couldn’t have faked my way through everything, high school and the SATs and college and the whole deal, without at least some actual intelligence. But for some reason I feel certain that it isn’t what its cracked up to be, that it’ll fail me in my time of greatest need, whatever that might be.

I’m afraid that I’ve gotten this life on false premises, and that when somebody in charge discovers that I’m not who I’ve been pretending to be, it’ll all be revoked. I know it’s silly: the dean is not going to expel me because I’m actually more shy and less good at math than I claim. I think it’s less a fear of the dean – or any other actual person – than of karma, or god, or fate or something. Like I’m fooling life itself, tricking destiny into giving me this cute apartment and these great friends and this sudden passion for school. And she’s going to wake up one day and say, hey, you aren’t good enough for this, you aren’t real, and it’ll be gone. And I’ll be left with winter and silence and darkness and cold.

So I’m trying to find a reconciliation: If I bring out the real self, or if I do whatever it is that needs to be done to rid myself of this dichotomy that I can feel, the root of this fear, then it’ll be okay. Maybe that’s just another illusion: even finding my quote real self unquote won’t protect me from death, or abandonment, or anything. But at least I won’t be afraid of losing it all to my own basic dishonesty.

Better to find comfort in that than in the changing seasons and the solidity of your body. Better to find comfort in my own self, in the integrity of my own self, than in the whole rest of the world. But that means I need to unearth the integrity of my own self from the rubble and the litter and the pyrite I’ve heaped on top of it. It’s been a long time since I’ve really wanted to look at myself: this is the beginning of what I suspect will be a very long, very tedious, very boring and also very scary project. And even though I need to know that it won’t change anything, not really, it won’t save me from any loss and it won’t necessarily bring me any peace, it needs doing. It does need doing.

So I’m doing it, alright? Here I am, doing it. Now. So lay off, brain. I’m not afraid of the work, I just can’t do it all at once. I think I’ve made some pretty good progress thus far.

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